The Classic Nerd

For a while I’ve been thinking about a frustration I’ve had. I walk into Best Buy and I see other people around me, some are looking at games, some are looking at home audio, and some much like myself are looking at computers. You would think seeing a person who I know is also likely to be the kind of guy who sits on a beach and all he can think about is…”why don’t they have wifi out here?” You would think finding that kind of fraternal-ism would be a great thing right? For whatever reason though, all I can think about is how much I’d like to dump a giant bucket of cold water on his head.

It’s not because 10 minutes previous, he was going on about how great the iPad is. You know, those pieces plastic that hold your door open, or the really expensive shotgun clays, not to be confused with a tablet computer that actually runs useful programs. It’s not becuase he referred to a display device as 1080p rather than using an actual resolution. It’s not even the fact that he looks at a 3.5″ floppy disk and wonders why the coffee coasters are next to the storage devices. It’s because he is not a nerd.

He plays call of duty, or world of warcraft. He’s got one of those really neat keyboards that light up, but still have a wire coming out the front of them. He’s got a $80 mouse even though it tracks like crap. He’s convinced that iTunes is the best coded piece of software in the world. Sure, many people that know him, he’s friends and family will say “little Freddie is a genius, he just knows how to do everything with those computers!” They will refer to him as a nerd, but I won’t and most of what I would consider to be a true nerd wouldn’t either.

The terminology of nerd has changed. True geeks and nerds like Kevin Mitnick are no longer respected. It’s far more impressive to have a round start menue and a blueish shiny taskbar than a functional fast computer. Gone are the days where we idolize those that code. We now look towards those who have a keen grasp on Photoshop. After all something that looks pretty even if it runs like Michael Moore is awesome right?

That’s okay, they can go ahead and steal my title, because what I and other’s like me possess, and what the modern nerd lacks is the ability to create. When I was in middle school, I would sit in my room, and take wires, batteries, capacitors, resisters, a 555 timer IC which is a blast for anyone who hasn’t played with one, and put electronics togeather.

To me a nerd is someone who looks at a problem and thinks “what do manufactures make that I can use in <Insert Project Here>”. Today’s nerd looks for “what can manufactures make for me to play with?” It seems there is no longer an interest in building or creating but rather reading an owners manual and “discovering” features that engineers put into the products they buy. I once told a guy that was complaining his computer speakers didn’t have a second input, that he could build a small box that fed the single speaker two inputs, with a mute button for each. Please realize when I say this I’m not talking about a cardboard box with some wires electrical taped together, although I’d be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge that much has been learned from just those kind of haphazardly constructed devices. In a pinch I’ll take duct tape, electrical tape, some tinfoil and you’d be surprised what can be accomplished. You can buy project boxes from Radio Shack. You can order custom ones online. It would be a fraction of those audio breakout boxes that they sell at OfficeMax and Best Buy. The modern day nerd though, wasn’t interested. He looked at me like I was bat nuts crazy for suggesting such a thing.

Well Kernel, don’t you know that in this day and age building things is best left to the manufacture? Sure it will cost a little more money but if people can afford it than no harm no foul right?” Maybe in the audio breakout case yes, however I watched a girl try to install printer drivers the other day, and when the “Search the internet for my driver” option didn’t work, she gave up. She had no idea how to find the model number, how to download the driver or install it. Automated installers, and updater have left the user useless.

What is with this trend of everything going live? It seems as if Windows 7 was designed around the idea of being connected to the internet 24/7. “I know I know, join the 21 century Kernel!” That’s all find and well until your my dad and you go to India for three weeks with no internet. Now half the things on your computer don’t work. I don’t mind a live option, but everything, and yes I realize the power of that word…everything should be able to be done off-line.

I wish the best of luck to the people who think Apple and Microsoft are the greatest things in the world, but I hope you realize or someday that those of us that have started our computer and got nothing but a blinking line (you know who you are) think you’re sort of pathetic. Oh and by the way, when we got that blinking line, we didn’t call Microsoft or Apple and complain our computer “bluescreeened”. We typed init5 or if we go way back to a good memory c:\mathblaster.exe At the end of the day, we can always use those automated installers, the automated updates, and the automated kitchen sinks. We just know how to cover our rears when that fancy stuff fails.

One last thing, next time you get a blinking line, a “Microsoft has recovered from a serious error”,  or a “This program is not responding”  don’t call it a BSOD. a blue screen of death needs to be blue, sounds silly I know, but believe me it matters.

 

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One thought on “The Classic Nerd

  1. I am ashamed that i have forgotten DOS. I know more Linux commands now than that of my youth. Today I feel that the nerd of what you talk about has become a different name, one that is much more hated. Today we are called Hackers. What i want everyone to recognize that that word is much more than what one would use to describe a person who is unlawfully gaining access to computer systems. Today a hacker is nothing more than a person who dives into every aspect of their technology and absorbs them self in tweaking, changing, knowing, understanding, and conquering their field. Don’t put yourself into this category because you may not even be there. A wise person once told me that everyone around you knows you better than you know yourself. Let others be the judge.

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